World’s leaders put on the spot
In January the new, Republican-dominated US Congress will take its seats. Republican leaders have said they will initially focus on issues with bi-partisan support, knowing the public is tired of the dysfunctional, zero-sum political wrangling that led to the government shutdown of 2013, but there is an obstructionist wing simply keen to weaken Obama in the last two years of his term.
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In Europe, frustration with political elites, traditional two-party systems, and economic inequality means “outsider” politicians are continuing to gain popular traction. In Spain, where nearly a quarter of people are unemployed, the 2015 elections may empower a new, left-wing, anti-establishment party, Podemos (“Yes We Can”), led by an academic and talk show host, Pablo Iglesias. In Greece, the only EU country with higher unemployment, the leftist party Syriza is pushing for an early election. In Poland, elections could empower the conservative opposition who are against joining the euro.
June is the new deadline for international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme. The likelihood of success should be clear by March. If not, there will be a renewed risk of war in the future. It is more likely the world will focus on containment and deterrence, but that means the added risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Western policies towards the Middle East will be preoccupied with the Islamic State because of the fear it will co-ordinate or inspire attacks in Western countries; increased fears of terrorism will lead to attacks on civil liberties as well. Israel’s elections may simply re-empower hardline president Benjamin Netanyahu. With little prospect of a change in Israeli policies, European public opinion is putting pressure on governments to try to resurrect the two state solution; more parliaments may vote to recognise a Palestinian state unilaterally.
China’s growth is expected to slow, and to be overtaken by India. Softer Chinese growth and rising US energy production may reduce oil prices further. That would redistribute wealth away from oil-producing countries, increasing the risks of social unrest in key Middle Eastern and African countries, especially Nigeria, where there are fears of violence around February’s elections. Russia’s oil-dependent economy is now expected to shrink. That could encourage even Vladimir Putin to soften his approach in order to alleviate international financial pressure – or pick some fights to burnish his nationalist credentials. «
Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House
Expansion in the West
IF IT wasn’t for politics in 2015, we’d be laughing. The UK looks set for another year of strong growth, around 2.7 per cent. Scotland should enjoy its fair share of rising investment, a better outlook for exporters, continuing falls in unemployment, modest but rising real pay gains, low inflation and rising household spending.
The mood will be altogether more subdued in oil-boom Aberdeen. But lower oil prices, likely to average $75 a barrel over the year, will enable central banks to keep interest rates lower for longer and bring benefits for both households and businesses in the UK.
So it’s not the economy that will be of primary concern in 2015. It is politics, and in particular the prospect, not just of a gridlocked Westminster parliament, but of voter unrest in the Eurozone and a potential debt collapse and financial crisis across Ukraine and Russia.
Domestic problems in Scotland may come to look miniscule on this perspective by the second half of the year. But it will be Scotland – and in particular the pursuit of “more powers” over Scotland’s tax and spending – that threatens to checkmate the UK parliament and trigger a second general election by late autumn. Overseas investors have been content to buy and hold ever greater quantities of UK debt on the blithe assumption of a two-party commitment to deficit reduction. But it’s delivery that counts. And a gridlocked Westminster parliament struggling to get a finance bill through the Commons could well see a sterling asset sell-off, a stock market plunge and bond market instability.
What would stoke the fire is the prospect of an Ed Miliband government made possible by SNP support while a majority of English voters backed Cameron’s Tories. An early challenge to the legitimacy of this outcome would be assured.
However, the first quarter of 2015 should see continuing expansion for manufacturing, construction and services as cheaper oil works through. Bank of England governor Mark Carney may find himself writing letters to the Chancellor on why inflation below 1 per cent is falling so short of target. In Scotland there will be early pressure for a change in the proposed Land Transaction Tax with middle income buyers feeling unduly punished.
Euro zone recovery will remain muted amid concerns of rising political risks, deepening disillusion over EU institutions and a rise in support for extremist parties.
But the biggest shadow is likely to be cast by events to the East with a financial collapse in the Ukraine and a debt default which would have serious repercussions for major creditor Russia. That is where the 2015 wild card looks to lie. «
Weigh up balance of power
Having come through the most momentous year in Scottish political history, it would be tempting to think that 2015 will be something of an anti-climax.
But looking into a crystal ball, it is clear that will be far from the case. The fall-out from the independence referendum will to continue to resonate, while May’s general election is a contest quite unlike any other seen in modern political history.
The referendum may be over, but matters constitutional will continue to top the agenda both sides of the Border.
In Scotland, Burns Night sees the key deadline for the production of draft legislation to implement “the vow” as outlined in the Smith Commission.
Meanwhile in England, David Cameron’s insistence on pushing English Votes for English Laws will continue to dominate the agenda. Cameron believes that constitutional change in Scotland means that the West Lothian Question should finally be addressed knowing full well that doing so will strip Labour of its power in the Commons.
Unsurprisingly Cameron’s determination to answer the anomaly raised by devolution that allows Scottish MPs to vote on English-only issues, will continue to be resisted by Labour.
Both the SNP and Labour go into 2015 with new faces at the top of their organisation. As the new First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is in charge of a tried and trusted SNP team, which has received a morale and cash-boosting surge in membership. Since the referendum, membership has soared and is now hitting the 100,000 mark.
In contrast, Jim Murphy has a stiff challenge to reinvigorate a tired Scottish Labour Party, which, despite victory in the referendum, is trailing the SNP in the polls.
For Sturgeon and Murphy their first and biggest test of 2015 will be the general election. For the SNP there is the incentive of becoming the biggest Westminster party in Scotland, a result that could give Nationalist MPs an unprecedented chance to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. There is also the intriguing possibility of Alex Salmond returning to Westminster after announcing his candidature in Gordon.
Sturgeon has ruled out doing a deal with David Cameron’s Conservatives, who could be struggling to hang on to power if their vote gets split by the rise of Ukip.
She has, however, indicated a willingness to work with Labour on an issue-by-issue basis.
In addition to Scottish Labour’s troubles, the UK Labour party faces challenges of its own. Ed Miliband has struggled to convince voters that he can be an effective replacement for Cameron – perhaps the overwhelming reason for the Tories to take hope as they go into this crucial year. «
Check out the sunshine look
A burst of sunshine will chase away the winter blues as bright yellow brings a warm front to the world of fashion in 2015. And, if the spring/summer shows were anything to go by, the canary, saffron and marigold hues will not be confined to simple sun frocks. With the Michael Kors collection featuring print skirts and duffel coats and Rosie Assoulin’s collection featuring evening dresses with plunging necklines, it is safe to say next season will be all (or at least significantly) yellow. “The challenge is figuring out whether you suit it or not because it’s quite a strong colour – it’s not going to be for everyone,” says Tessa Hartmann, founder of the Scottish Fashion Awards, “but it looks good with a nice bronzed skin. If you’re naturally pale, you should maybe put on some fake tan before wearing it.”
As always, there will be an eclectic range of styles and fabrics, from skirt dresses with dropped waists and big collars, some of them buttoned up high, some very low, to kimono-style trench coats with slits worn over little T-shirt dresses.
Denim will be back in a big way, in dungarees, dresses and long flowing skirts for women, and over-sized jackets, lightweight coats and shorts for men. When it comes to jeans, the fad for spray-on skinny (which only suit the stick-thin) will give way to cropped, baggy trousers worn with slim-fitting T-shirts to create a contrast.
Another fabric which will enjoy a massive revival is gingham which was everywhere in the spring/summer shows, says Hartmann. From Oscar de la Renta’s pink gingham coat and black and white skirt and crop top to Diane von Furstenberg’s “picnic dresses” in a myriad styles from baby doll to maxi skirt, the classic Wizard of Oz material was being revitalised and re-imagined.
Culottes, popular in 2014, will continue to be a major trend this year and will come in a variety of different guises – boyish with a hint of the school yard a la Jil Sander or feminine and floaty a la Armani. “Culottes are difficult to wear because they can be very unflattering. They are fine if you are tall and slender – the classic bean-pole – but anyone else can end up looking like a granny,” says Hartmann.
Maroon will be a key colour for men, with suits over buttoned-up collars and no ties, or even over smart jumpers or T-shirt, reinforcing the idea that you don’t need to be stuffily formal to look smart.
Last year saw the rise of the orthopaedic shoe; this year, the focus will stay on comfort over style with flat shoes, and particularly poolside-like sliders, proliferating.
Make-up wise, we will see a move away from the natural no-make-up look and towards bronzed skin, glossy lips and smoky eyes. “This look was very popular on the catwalk – a subtle face with a very simple black line: Oscar de la Renta did it, Marchesa did it, Yves Saint Laurent did it, with a much more extenuated line,” says Hartmann. “I think if there is one item you need to have in your make-up bag this year it’s liquid eyeliner. Lancome does a liner plume – it is like a felt-tip pen and it’s excellent – but I think the best in the business is Bobby Brown’s liquid gel [which comes in a small pot]”. The other make-up must this year is deep berry lipstick.
Hair will mostly be worn long. “I think the two biggest looks, as far as hair is concerned, are boho chic – the sort of beach-tousled look, which isn’t really new – and the sleek, pulled back look with wisps hanging down – the kind of thing that when you see it you think it’s wet but it’s achieved with a kind of wax,” says Hartmann. Crimping will also make an unexpected, and not universally welcome, come-back after Stella McCartney used it to add texture to a simple low pony-tail. «
Savour the change in flavour
WITH sugar, and particularly fruit juices, now declared public enemy number one, food experts say 2015 will herald a shift from sweet to savoury, with vegetable teas, smoothies and yoghurts, such as beetroot, squash, tomato and carrot, set to become the next big thing.
In Rome, there are already artisanal ice creams made with Gorgonzola, mortadella and even anchovies.” There’s going to be a big backlash on sugars, so we will see a move away from anything that’s fruit-based and a move towards savoury – savoury breakfasts, savoury snacks – and towards fat,” says food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye.
“I think we will understand better that sugar is a cheap filler, and there will be more focus on good fat – for example butter from grass-fed cows.”
Our enduring love affair with protein is set to continue, along with our obsessions with healthy snacks, so dried meat and fish products such as beef jerky in various coatings such as lime chilli and octopus chips are likely to see a surge in popularity. And according to Gaye, 2015 may be the year we see insect protein going mainstream. Cricket flour [where the bugs are roasted and ground into a powder] sold on its own or used to make snack bars and tortilla chips is already available in America and likely to make its way to the UK.
With many people still worried about gluten, there is likely to be a move towards the use of different types of gluten-free grain, including teff – a fine grain around the size of a poppy seed, favoured by Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow. Quinoa will be out and kaniwa, which is high in protein, fibre, iron, and calcium and has a nutty, slightly sweet flavour, will be in. Pistachio is tipped to be the nut of the year.
Towards the end of 2015, we may also start to see the trend for gourmet and intelligent vending machines. In the US, and particularly in California, there are already vending machines which take credit cards and sell caviar, escargot, blinis and cupcakes.
With a heavy focus on waste, Gaye says there may also be a move towards edible packaging such as the wikipearl, a soft, durable and water-resistant membrane made from natural food particles.
The advance of smart technology is likely to transform the way we dine out, with apps which will allow us to choose a restaurant, find out how long it will take us to get there and pre-order online, according to international food and restaurant consultants Baum & Whiteman.
In busy bars, it should also be possible to order food and drinks with location-based technology or face recognition software which allows the waiter to see exactly where you are standing.
3D printers will remain the preserve of the better-off, but with models now less than £1,000 their use will soar. Worldwide shipments are expected to rise by 98 per cent in 2015 and then double in 2016.
Another phenomenon that will take off is click and collect which allows shoppers to order online while out and about then pick up the goods at the most convenient location. According to Mintel, the roll-out of Amazon’s collection lockers has galvanised other companies, with Network Rail launching Doddle, station-based parcel shops open to any retailer or carrier, and Royal Mail giving the country’s 20,000 SMEs the chance to allow customers to collect their goods at one of the company’s 10,500 post office branches.
Leading clothing brands are also expected to overcome one of the hurdles of online shopping (not being able to try the clothes on) with pop-up pods for customers to try on and return goods.
On the travel front, there will be a boom in the poshtel – a melding of a hotel and a hostel for discerning consumers who want glamour at a budget price – while the WTM-Euro-monitor report predicted peer-to-peer eatings – which offer travellers the chance to dine in local people’s homes – would also be on the rise. «
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